Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fasting for the Climate

Written by Karin Frank
Outreach Coordinator for WAIPL

Last week our faith partners including United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society and the Lutheran World Federation delegations in Warsaw, Poland at the UN COP19 Climate Conference shared a message with the larger faith community:

We are here as part of an interfaith witness to ensure the global community hears the cries of creation and responds to the urgent realities of a changing climate. 
The tone of conversations at this gathering was set on day one when Commissioner Yeb Saño of the Philippines made a heart-felt and impassioned plea on behalf of his people - our Filipino brothers and sisters - devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. As part of his statement he announced that he was beginning a voluntary fast until such time as the global community made significant progress in responding to the global climate crisis. 
We have begun a fasting chain and are inviting you to join us as additional links. The point for us is one of sacrifice and solidarity. Mindful that our two delegations - the US and the EU - remain impediments to progress on such critical issues as mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage, we felt it important to join in this global witness. 

Commissioner Yeb Saño at the UN climate talks in Warsaw.
The fast was begun by Yeb Saño, who is now on the ninth day of his fast ending at the end of the conference on Saturday morning. With our brothers and sisters in Warsaw, the Philippines, and around the world, Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s partner Creation Justice Ministries is encouraging you to join them in fasting this week, in whatever way is appropriate for you, be it fasting from food during certain times this week or be it fasting from carbon by going to work by bike or bus rather than car this month. You can also post about your fast on CJM’s Facebook page and on Earth Ministry’s, and you can also post on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #FastingForTheClimate.

In the Jewish and Christian faiths, fasting personally and collectively is a form of repentance and of mourning. It is one of the great tragedies of climate change that the people who will suffer most from it are those who had the least to do with causing it. The entire world will suffer for the sins of our societies. As people of faith, call on our own communities to repent. As people who care for others, we mourn for the recent devastation in the Philippines and for all who will suffer in future disasters as a result of climate change.

We are only a week away from Thanksgivukkah and, by the retail calendar just a few short days from Christmas. As we enter the time of year when we give thanks for all of the richness in our lives, we have come face-to-face with the cost of our abundance. As we enter the time of year when we are often faced with the brokenness in ourselves, our families, and our communities, we are also reminded of the world's brokenness. Let us fast before we give thanks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Land is Our Land

Written by Jessica Zimmerle
Outreach Coordinator for Earth Ministry
Dear friends,

When you think of public lands, what image comes to mind? Perhaps your mind wanders to the familiar path of a hiking trail, a favorite family camp site, a scenic lookout over a breathtaking landscape, or a proud national monument. For many of us, these experiences in wilderness form important steps in our faith journey as we encounter the divine in nature and can often find a much needed sense of peace in these places.

Martin Luther once said that “God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars.” Connecting with this message in the natural world enhances our relationship with the Creator as it grounds our faith in a physical place where wonder and awe remind us of God’s presence. Wilderness also provides a source of Sabbath rest where we can escape the trials and labors of our everyday life and reconnect with our religious heritage.

Not only do we benefit from the spiritual and recreational fulfillment that comes from public lands, but we are also called to be faithful stewards of God’s lands that have been entrusted to our care. Unfortunately, these beautiful spaces that we hold dear are at risk. Oil and gas development on and privatization of public lands is increasing, so  it is very important to be sure our representatives know how much this land means to us from a spiritual standpoint.

This means that, once again, it’s time for the faith community to raise our voice for creation care by speaking with our elected officials!

A fantastic group of eight faith leaders living in the 8th Congressional district met with US Representative Dave Reichert on November 5 in his district office in Issaquah, WA. The meeting emphasized the spiritual value of wilderness for the faith community and expressed thanks for the Congressman’s longstanding dedication to our lands -- especially his hard work in designating and expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Five out of the eight people of faith present were under age 35 (including me!), demonstrating the importance of public lands for younger generations who increasingly seek their spiritual practice through nature.

The Earth Ministry members who participated in the meeting approached the topic of public lands from a variety of perspectives. In explaining why people of faith value our lands, participants shared stories of laying down their emotional and spiritual burdens in the nearby Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, participating in restoration projects that rely on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the importance of experiences in nature for today’s youth. The group addressed the bipartisan cooperation exemplified by past US Presidents designating new national monuments under the Antiquities Act and asked Congressman Reichert to oppose any amendments to weaken the Act. Our group also weighed in on the need to keep public lands in public hands and to keep conservation on equal ground with oil and gas development.

These stories set a tone of respect and care for creation that Representative Reichert responded to very positively as he articulated that he shares our values as people of faith. The meeting was both uplifting and promising as it expressed gratitude and focused on requests that affirm protection of our public lands.

In the words of Woody Guthrie, “this land is your land, this land is my land.” So let’s come together to protect our public lands for all of God’s children to enjoy today and tomorrow.

In peace,